Marketing is dead, long live marketing

Depending on what research you believe, chief marketing officers are either more powerful than they’ve ever been — or they’re on their way out.

Early this year,a Gartner(s it) analyst predicted that CMOs will have bigger IT budget power than CIOs by 2017. Naturally, that analysis was quickly bandied about by CMOs.

But last week, in a blog post unambiguously titled “Marketing is Dead,” Bill Lee wrote that CMOs, as a species, are under fire.

Lee, president of the Lee Consulting Group which focuses on “customer engagement,” cited data from a 2011 Fournaise Marketing Group study suggesting that CEOs don’t see ROI on marketing efforts and are sick of being asked for marketing money with no discernible payoff. On top of that,  Lee posits that shoppers don’t pay attention to traditional marketing anymore. Ouch.

Cloud and big data reshape the marketing role

Underlying this seeming contradiction is that marketing is being redefined in the era of cloud-delivered, self-service applications and services and web-connected consumers. Several CIOs and CTOs have told me that they agree that CMOs gaining clout in their businesses — but the most successful CMOs are those who “get” that effective marketing is both broader and more focused than it’s been in the past.

“Broader” here means that the channels are no longer limited to radio, TV, print and online publications but social networks as well. CMOs who understand that the data flowing in via Twitter and Facebook (s fb) is an important source of market intelligence — a big data feed that must be monitored and tapped.

Filtering the social networks

The explosion of social networking use means that “multi-channel” marketing is more multi-channel than ever. You don’t have to just track newspaper, TV and radio “thought leaders,” you need to watch for your company’s own thought leaders — your best customers and what they’re saying. That means narrower, less scattershot messaging — why hit up people who are not even remotely interested in your product or service? The idea is that your thought leaders will convince others that your offering is worth a look.

At the very least, you’d better know Gnip and DataSift.

Lee wrote:

Many firms spend lots of resources pursuing outside influencers who’ve gained following on the Web and through social media. A better approach is to find and cultivate customer influencers and give them something great to talk about.

There’s more insight here in a blog post by Evangelos Simoudis, senior managing director of Trident Capital. Simoudis wrote:

In order to become customer-centric and deliver a consistent message to each individual regardless of the communication channel, companies must first integrate all their customer- and prospect-related data.  Up to now, organizations would silo the various types of customer-related data.

So whether a given CMO has clout or is about to get pink-slipped depends a lot on her ability to understand the importance of this data trove and capture and make use of that big data resource.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user lznogood

Thumbnail photo courtesy of Shutterstock user Aaron Amat